Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (14 February 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, 1865 at 180-189.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
TUESDAY, February 14, 1865.
Hon. Sir N.F. Belleau said—Hon. gentlemen, the discussion on the scheme of Confederation has already been protracted, and little really remains to be said, for all the objections to the scheme have been made by the one side and replied to by the other. I may, however, be permitted to offer a few remarks on one or two of the objections which were urged again yesterday.
For the last three years the country has witnessed a state of things which by many persons has been designated governmental anarchy. Government after government in rapid succession have grasped the helm of state. A state of conflict existed between political parties which was hourly on the increase; a conflict which threatened to arrest the progress of public business, and which drew the minds of our statesmen to consider whether any means could be adopted to remedy this state of things. The men of influence throughout the country at length decided to unite, and have come to the conclusion that a remedy was to be found in a Confederation of the British American Provinces. It is not to be wondered at that this plan should have attracted the attention of the present Administration, for it was not a new one, and the question had already been brought before the country […]
- (p. 181)
[…] on several occasions. In the Confederation of these provinces are to be found elements which give promise, nay, contain the germ of a power which will one day take its place among the nations of the world.
And in considering this Confederation of the British North American Provinces, I am reminded of the fable of the bundle of sticks, which I learned in my childhood, and which so exactly applies to the present circumstances. This fable tells us that the sticks when bound together were strong enough to resist all the efforts made to break them, but that when separated they were broken one by one with but little effort. It seems to me that the lesson afforded by this fable may be well applied to the question of Confederation—separated we are weak, united we shall be strong. Commerce, population, manufactures, progress, in a word, all the elements requisite to constitute a powerful nation are contained in the united colonies; but these become of little consequence if allowed to be utilized by each separate colony. And not only would the union of these elements constitute the Confederation a great power amongst the other nations of the world, but there would be found amongst its population a number of sturdy arms, sufficient, with the aid of Great Britain, to repel foreign aggression.
I do not belong to that school which pretends that in case of invasion on the part of the United States, the best thing we could do would be to remain passive with folded arms. That is not my idea. Such notions may flatter the opinions and desires of those who have republican leanings, of annexationists and of anti-Canadians, who are nothing less than enemies of the monarchical system in this country. I have no sympathy with those who place themselves at the head of the republican and annexationist school, for I see in them none of those national aspirations of which every man is always proud. “With these few remarks to show the necessity of Confederation, and that its first result will be the production of a new and powerful people, I propose to consider the terms and conditions of the scheme, and whether Lower Canada will find in them the protection its interests demand.
The first point to which I directed my attention was to ascertain what guarantees Lower Canada would find in Confederation for its laws, its religion and its autonomy. I find the guarantee of all these things in that article of the scheme which gives to Lower Canada the local government of its affairs, and the control of all matters relating to its institutions, to its laws, to its religion, its manufactures and its autonomy. Are you not all prepared, hon. gentlemen, and you especially members from Lower Canada, to make some few sacrifices in order to have the control of all those things to which I have just referred, and which are all to be within the jurisdiction of the local governments. Are you not ready to make some few sacrifices to see an end put to those struggles which have been constantly recurring during the last few years, to the imminent peril of Lower Canada and of its institutions—dangers which still exist and which might even now become only too apparent were the friends who have sustained the combat to grow weary, or to give way and leave the field to their adversaries?
If we persist in striving to obtain too much, if we are unwilling to make any sacrifice, we may lose the whole result of these struggles and the advantages now offered for our acceptance. For my part the consideration that we shall have the control of our local affairs in Lower Canada, under the Confederation, is a sufficient inducement to vote in favor of the scheme now submitted to us, even although it offered us no other advantage. But, without entering into the details, I now propose to reply to certain objections which have been urged, and prove that it is for our interest to adopt this plan. One of the very first objections raised has been offered by the honorable member for the Wellington Division (Hon. Mr. Sanborn).
He has stated that he could not vote for Confederation because he had not received the sanction of his constituents to change the Constitution of his country. Whilst, however, he makes this statement, the same honorable gentleman proposes, nevertheless, to change the Constitution which he declares his electors have not given him authority to change in any particular. This is the resolution which he proposes in amendment:
Upper Canada to be represented in the Legislative Council by twenty-four elective members, and Lower Canada by twenty-four elective members, and the Maritime Provinces by twenty-four members, corresponding with the twenty-four elective members in each section of Canada, of which Nova Scotia shall have ten, New Brunswick ten, and Prince Edward Island shall have four, and the present members of the Legislative Council of Canada, as well life members as elective members, shall be members of the first […]
- (p. 182)
[…] Legislative Council of the Federal Parliament, the appointed members to remain for life, and the elective members for eight years from the date of their election, unless removed by death or other cause; their successors to be elected by the same divisions and electors as have elected them.
Well, honorable gentlemen, if the honorable member from Wellington [Hon. Mr. Sanborn] has not received authority to change the Constitution of this country, certainly he has not the right to make the amendment which he proposes, an amendment which is full of contradiction. The honorable gentleman says that he has no objection to vote for Confederation after having consulted his electors. Well, although he may not have much faith in the maxim Vox populi, vox Dei, the honorable member has declared that the rule of his conduct has always been, Salus populi suprema lex. I have no doubt, however, that he would say, Salus meus suprema lex est, if he were appointed a life member, and that he would have no scruple as regards amending the Constitution. The game argument has been urged by the honorable member for Lanaudière (Hon. Mr. Olivier).
Well, I think that that honorable gentleman will not, without difficulty, extricate himself from the dilemma in which I am about to place him. He has also stated that he had received no authority from his constituents to alter the Constitution. If he has not received this authority, he ought to vote against the amendment which is now proposed, the object of which is to alter the Constitution. If this objection were a serious one, why do not members who are desirous of consulting their electors resign their seats, and seek re-election on this question, instead of setting the whole country in a blaze by a dissolution? But no, they fold their arms and say that a dissolution does not affect them, the Council would not be affected by it. They are not, then, serious in asking for an appeal to the people. The hon. member for Grandville (Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just) has also read something to the same purpose. I call upon him, then, to resign his seat and to consult his constituents; but as he has already tried the experiment lately in two important places in his division, he knows that the ground trembles under his feet. I do not think he would care to make the trial, as the result might be very far from gratifying.
Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just–I am ready to resign to-morrow, if you will come and contest the division with me.
Hon. Sir N.F. Belleau—I will not go myself, but others will, and I venture to predict that you will be left at home. I trust, then, that we shall hear no more about this want of authority to alter the Constitution, for it is only a roundabout way of defeating the scheme of Confederation, out of pure party feeling. It has also been said that the electors were taken by surprise, and that they did not know what was being done—that they did not know what the plan of Confederation was until it was discussed here; but those who have taken part in public affairs since 1858 cannot say this, for the question has been laid before the country for discussion several times since that period, and always by official acts.
No one has forgotten the celebrated speech made by the Hon. Mr. Galt, in 1858, when he joined the Cartier-Macdonald Ministry, in which he declared himself to be in favor of a Confederation of the provinces. It has not been forgotten that Hon. Messrs. Galt, Cartier and Ross then made a voyage to England to lay before the Minister for the Colonies their views on the subject of Confederation. It is true that from that period up to last year, but little was said about it, because there had been a change in the English Government, and it was necessary to recommence all that had been done; but if the question was not talked about in England, it was not allowed to sleep here. No one has forgotten the Speech from the Throne, delivered in Toronto in 1858, by Sir Edmund Head, in which he spoke of the necessity of enquiring into the matter, and laying it before the country.
Most certainly no better means of submitting it to the people could have been adopted. Subsequently the question was mooted again and again in the House of Assembly up to the time when, governments succeeding each other like flashes of lighting, it became necessary to have recourse to a coalition, in order to put an end to the anarchy which prevailed in the political affairs of the country. The coalition in question was based on the principle of Confederation. The members of that Government, by a happy and unusual concurrence of circumstances, had an opportunity of meeting at the Charlottetown Conference to discuss the question, and enter slightly upon the subject of a general Confederation. They again met at Quebec, […]
- (p. 183)
[…] together with all the delegates from the Lower Provinces, and the result of their labors is the plan which is now laid before us. But there is more to be said, for before the present Ministry had entered upon the consideration of the plan, with their colleagues of the Gulf provinces, His Excellency had alluded to it in his Speech, and had said that it was absolutely necessary that a conclusion on the subject should be come to. And besides, the leading papers of this province and of the Lower Provinces, have long been engaged in the discussion of the question. The details have been examined in all their bearings to satiety.
In view of all these facts, I would ask how it can be said that the people do not know what the question is? No; this is merely a pretext which is made use of to overthrow the plan. But another fact which goes to prove that the people have not been taken by surprise in this matter is, that within the last ten months, there have been twelve elections of legislative councillors, and it cannot be said that when those elections took place, the question of Confederation was not before the public. This would be to state a falsehood in the full glare of noonday.
The hon. member for Lanaudière (Hon. Mr. Olivier), yesterday said that a Montreal paper had stated that he had declared himself opposed to Confederation, and he hastened to contradict the assertion. But I must say that when he appeared before his constituents and talked of retrograde steps—when he said that, for his part, he should consider it a step back in civilization, if he voted against the election of members of this House, I consider that it was idle of him to say that he had not declared himself opposed to Confederation.
Hon. Mr. Olivier—The details.
Hon. Sir N.F. Belleau—Details and principle. I say then that at the elections which have taken place, the members elected, unless they did not choose to do their duty, must have spoken of the Confederation, and above all, of the manner in which the Legislative Council would be treated in that Confederation. And if these details were entered into, the people are acquainted with the subject in question. And not only have there been elections, but there have been public meetings in large numbers throughout the whole country,—that is to say, wherever the opponents of Confederation could get them up without danger to themselves; and at all these meetings they did not require to be forced to speak of Confederation, and that in the most unfavorable terms possible. It is true that matters were not represented on those occasions in their true light, but the people at any rate knew what subject was under discussion.
The honorable member for Wellington (Hon. Mr. Sanborn) laid great stress on the danger which might be incurred by the Protestant minority in the local legislation of Lower Canada. He fears that they may not be sufficiently protected by the Catholic majority in respect of their religion, their schools and possibly their property. I am astonished to hear such language from the lips of a man who, like myself, represents a division more than one-half of the population of which is French Canadian and Catholic, for that fact in itself is a proof of the liberality of our fellow-countrymen. I heard that remark with pain; but I can tell him that the Protestant minority of Lower Canada have nothing to fear from the Catholic majority of that province: their religion is guaranteed by treaty, and their schools and the rights which may be connected with them, are to be settled by legislation to take place hereafter, and when that legislation is laid before the Houses, those members who so greatly tremble now for the rights of the Protestant minority will have an opportunity of protecting that minority; they may then urge their reasons, and insist that the Protestants shall not be placed in a position of the slightest danger.
But even granting that the Protestants were wronged by the Local Legislature of Lower Canada, could they not avail themselves of the protection of the Federal Legislature? And would not the Federal Government exercise strict surveillance over the action of the local legislatures in these matters? Why should it be sought to give existence to imaginary fears in Lower Canada? I say imaginary, because the liberality of the inhabitants of Lower Canada—a liberality of which they gave proof long, long ago, by enacting the emancipation of the Jews before any other nation in the world had dreamed of such a measure—is well known. No; far from wishing to oppress other nationalities, all that the French Canadians ask is to live at peace with all the world; they are quite willing that they should enjoy their rights, provided that all live peaceably together. (Hear.) […]
- (p. 184)
[…] I cannot refrain from saying a word as to the Protestants of Lower Canada, and as to the liberality evinced towards them by the French and Catholic population. It is feared that we may combine together in order to treat them unjustly. I may be wrong in referring to the fact, but it is true that the French Canadians have always lived on more cordial terms with the English Protestants than with the Irish, who are nevertheless of the same religion, and of the same belief as themselves. If this good feeling has always existed, what is there to fear? The hon. member for Lanaudière (Hon. Mr. Olivier) has said, that the plan of Confederation was not necessary, and in that he agreed with the hon. member for Grandville (Hon. Mr. Letellier).
He has stated that it would have been possible to regulate the difficulties which we have witnessed, without having recourse to Confederation, from the fact that many of these difficulties arose from the hatred existing between certain individuals. Now, for my part, I do not believe that our political men were actuated by motives of mutual hatred. When I witnessed the struggles which occurred in the House of Assembly, the votes of want of confidence which were proposed, I always felt that those who proposed them gave good reasons for so doing. But I was not aware of the existence of hatred or personal jealousy between the parties, and that upon the removal of such feelings, the difficulties might be easily overcome. But the statement is made simply for want of any sound arguments against Confederation. The same hon. member also stated, that the minorities in Upper and Lower Canada wished to know the fate reserved for them, before voting for Confederation.
If he had reflected a little, he would have learned that the fate of the minorities will be defined by the law, that their religion is guaranteed by treaties, and that they will be protected by the vigilance of the Federal Government, which will never permit the minority of one portion of the Confederation to be oppressed by the majority. The hon. member also contends that the local governments ought to have larger powers than those proposed to be conferred upon them, and that the Federal Government ought to have fewer powers. To hear him, one cannot help thinking that the experience of history is entirely lost on certain individuals. He must have been aware, however, that it is in reference to the rights of particular states, that civil war now exists in the United States; nevertheless, he would implant in this country the same germ of discord. He would have more power below and less authority above. For my part I say the very contrary, if we wish to have a strong Government capable of enforcing respect for its authority when it shall be necessary to enforce it. The hon. member also stated that he has no confidence in the exercise of the powers of the Federal Government, because it would be surrounded by a clique.
Hon. Mr. Olivier—I did not say that would be the case, but that, theoretically, it might occur, and that if it were surrounded by a clique, the rights of Lower Canada would be in danger.
Hon. Sir N.F. Belleau—That makes no difference; for he stated that he feared the Government would be surrounded by a clique. But is it not the national representation that will surround the Federal Government? Is that a clique? To say that our Government is a clique, is to vilify the institutions of the country. The Government will be responsible to the Legislature. Let us never lose sight of the fact, that our national representatives will always see that Lower Canada shall have in the Federal Government one, or perhaps two, representatives—the number is not of importance. What is of importance is, that such one, or such two members, should represent in her Executive Council the national representation, which will be composed of 65 members, in the Federal Legislature. And this, forsooth, is called a clique!
I insist somewhat at length upon this point, because the operation of the principle of responsible government in the Federal Legislature is lost sight of. I beg to call the attention of Lower Canada members to this. Suppose it were proposed to adopt a law in the Federal Legislature calculated to injure Lower Canada, our 65 representatives in the House of Commons discuss the law, and decide that they must oppose it; they at once communicate with the members of the Government representing Lower Canada, and inform them that they cannot accept the measure, and that if it be passed, they will coalesce with the minority, which always exists under responsible government, and that they will overthrow the Ministry. Such is the weight of our influence in the Federal Government; and if this were not lost sight of, there […]
- (p. 185)
[…] would be no grounds for fear. The influence of Lower Canada will enable her to make and unmake governments at pleasure, when her interests shall be at stake or threatened. And if the importance of this responsibility of the Federal Government were well understood, there would be no anxiety about our institutions.
The hon. member also stated that he did not want to make a backward step in relation to the election of the members of the Legislative Council. In reply to that, I would state that the elective principle, as applied to the Legislative Council, becomes unnecessary in view of the numerical strength of Lower Canada in the Federal Parliament, for the House of Commons is the body that will make and unmake ministers. Why have the elective principle for the Legislative Council, since we shall have it for the House of Commons, since we shall have a responsible Government and a Federal Government, composed of members elected by the people? The hon. member has stated that he desired to advance with the intellect of the people, and not to take a backward step.
These are great words—the intellect of the people! progress! But for my part, I do not hesitate to assert, that the people will gladly sacrifice the election of the members of the Legislative Council, in view of the control of all the matters I mentioned before. The hon. member has said that the elective principle would have been the safe-guard of Lower Canada. I can understand this to be the case in a House which is able to make and unmake administrations, but in a House which is indissoluble, I cannot discover its importance. The safety of Lower Canada depends, not on the elective principle, but on the responsibility of the members of the Executive to the House of Commons. I may be permitted to say one word on the subject of the elective right, as it is the grand panacea for all the ills incident to humanity. We must not shut our eyes against evidence. Have we, since the union of several counties to form electoral divisions, seen persons of independent fortune and character, who do not seek to make a gainful pursuit of politics, offer themselves for election to the Legislative Council? I acknowledge that the elections to seats in the Legislative Council which have taken place so far have had excellent results: the members sent hither by their constituencies have added new lustre to the body; but has it not now become almost impossible to get an independent man to stand?
The contested elections in the large divisions have disgusted many who would do honor to the country, but who will not risk their fortune in an election; and if we see such a result already, what is it likely to be hereafter? We shall see political intriguers making their own of the electoral divisions as a living—living by politics and for politics only. We shall see what has been seen in other countries—people embracing political life as a shield against their creditors, sheltering themselves under its segis against the law. Such men will fill this House, to the exclusion of honor and honesty. I say again, those who now compose this House are honorable men, who are a credit to their country—in time, their seats will be filled by political intriguers.
Another, and a final objection to Confederation has been made, namely, that having it, we shall not have increased the means of defence, nor the resources of the country. If those who talk thus had taken time to consider the matter more carefully, they would not hold this opinion. It is evident that with the means of communication already provided, and the Intercolonial Railway, if a section of Upper Canada should be invaded by the enemy, the combined forces of the Confederation might be transported to the point threatened in a very short time, and we would be in a position to show the enemy that united we are strong. We should be wilfully blind not to see this. It has also been alleged that in order to increase our means of defence, we should build the North Shore Railway, and that the Government who do not this are inefficient and renegades to their country.
Hon. Mr. Olivier—I never made use of that expression.
Hon. Sir N.F. Belleau—True, you did not make use of the expression, but what you said amounted to that in meaning. According to the hon. member, the North Shore Railway would be the salvation of the country. I believe the hon. member resides somewhere in the north, on the line of that road. (Hear, and laughter.) I believe that his motto is, Salus mea suprema lex est,—(All for myself, nothing for others.) The North Shore Railway has had, and may again have, its advantages; and as a channel of communication I should be glad to see it built, but at present the building of it would cost too dear. When the military defences […]
- (p. 186)
[…] projected by the present Administration for the protection of the South Side Railway are completed, the north side road will not be required.
The hon. member has also said that he is desirous of giving the inhabitants of the country time to reflect on and study the scheme of Confederation, and that he does not see why we should wish to urge on the passing of the measure so strenuously. I have already observed that a plan was submitted to the Mother Country some years ago, but that a change of ministers then had rendered the scheme abortive. The same thing may happen again; and if we consider the age of the Premier of England, and the uncertain position in which his Cabinet would stand if he should die, it will be plain that we have no time to lose. This is a very sufficient reason for urging on the measure in the minds of those who hold that it is destined to save the country.
One more remark and I have done. The hon. member (Hon. Mr. Olivier) has adjured us not to wound the susceptible feelings of our neighbors,—not to give umbrage to their sensitiveness,—by entering into a Confederation which might give them a pretext for carrying out the Monroe doctrine. This is, I think, the most paltry reason that could be alleged in discussing the most important question of legislation which has ever arisen on this continent, so far as the fate of Canada is concerned. I think that the measure is in every respect suitable and advantageous to Canada. Any attempt to obstruct it by such considerations, is a proof of pusillanimity, and I almost feel ashamed to hear the expression of them from the lips of a French Canadian. (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just—Honorable Gentlemen, after the speech which we have just heard, I hope a few words will be allowed to me, for I have been, I must say, perfectly astonished to hear such statements fall from the lips of the hon. member who has just resumed his seat; and if my object was to reply to him, I might satisfy myself with saying:—
Orlando, in his frenzy, I saw,
Expend all his strength and toil,
From the hold of their mother earth to draw,
Trees that clave not to the soil.
It is most certainly my right, I consider, when I see an honorable member rise in his place, and say that we, the councillors elected by the people, are nobody because our pouches are not so well lined as those of certain honorable members, to express my astonishment at the use of such language; for we should be permitted to hold the opinion, that the value of the man is not to be measured by the amount of money which he may happen to possess. There is such a thing as a nobility of education and of intellect, as well as a moneyed aristocracy, and for my part, I consider that the former is quite equal to the latter. In all countries in the world education has produced a feeling of devotion to the country, while riches alone have often produced but sordid avarice.
The hon. member pretends that if the elective principle continues to be applied to the Legislative Council, the result will very soon be that all those adventurers who seek to live in political life and by political life, will drive from our midst all men of merit, and will then control the affairs of the country. For my part, I by no means stand in dread of such a result, for I know that there is too much good sense among the people to make it possible that they will ever consent to serve as a stepping-stone to political adventurers in pursuit of the advancement of their own personal prospects and fortune in public life. I am well aware that some political adventurers do occasionally succeed in imposing upon the people by means of fine promises and a hypocritical exterior; but the political life of such individuals has never been of long duration, and the results of the election of legislative councillors by the people remain to prove the complete absence of foundation for the fears expressed by the honorable member.
I think, moreover, that the results which have hitherto obtained from the application of the elective principle to this House, and from the election of the members who now sit in it, are satisfactory and do no dishonor to this honorable House. At any rate I never yet heard such a thing asserted. The hon. member maintains that it is not necessary that the Legislative Council should be elective, because that body is intended, or has for its mission, to act as a counterpoise between the Executive and the Lower House. But that state of affairs exists at the present day,—and when all acknowledge it,—when none complain of the present system—we are told that this privilege is to be taken away from the people in order that it may be restored to the Crown! Now, I say that such a proceeding is a step in a backward direction, and a retrogression from […]
- (p. 187)
[…] the advancement of the age. Is it because certain members of the Council have never been successful in their efforts to be elected for any county whatever, that they wish to deprive the people of the right of electing their representatives?
But is it supposed that by giving the Crown the right of appointing legislative councillors, the services of more able, more upright, and more honorable men will be secured, than if the people were allowed to elect them? When the Legislative Council was made elective, those who prepared the law were of the same opinion as the honorable member (Hon. Sir N. F. Belleau) that a rich man must of necessity be a man of greater talent than one less blessed with this world’s goods, and, in order that the people night not err in their selection, they enacted that every member elected to the Legislative Council should possess at least one thousand pounds in real property; but now, in the scheme of Confederation, that amount is reduced by one-half, and it is thereby admitted that the possession of riches is not an indispensable condition to the possession of talent.
The honorable member endeavored to justify the haste with which it is sought to push the scheme of Confederation through, by declaring that Lord Palmerston is a very aged man, and that his Ministry is quavering in the balance. So, because the Prime Minister of England is old, we are to be compelled to swallow the pill without even being allowed time to enquire whether it is suited to our case or not. It must be acknowledged that this is a very poor argument. As to the fear of seeing the scheme of Confederation thrown out in England, in case of any change taking place in the constitution of the Imperial Government, I look upon it as entirely chimerical—for if Confederation is acceptable in England and to English interests now, it will be just as acceptable to them eight or ten months hence as it is at present. If the plan is a useful one, in an English point of view, it will be carried out, let what Government may be in power. Then let the people have time to consider of it. The honorable member has stated that there have been twelve elections to the Legislative Council since the question of Confederation has been mooted; but those elections did not take place at a period subsequent to the preparation of the scheme of Confederation, and consequently the people were not and could not be acquainted with the details. The result of the twelve elections in question was neither favorable nor the reverse to the plan of Confederation, for that plan was not then known.
It is said because the plan was distributed throughout the country, that therefore it must be known. But how could it be so, especially in its details, when we every day see the Government greatly
embarrassed at giving explanations, or refusing to give them, on certain points?—when, for instance, we see a minister in one House state that the seigniorial indemnity will be paid by Lower Canada alone, whilst it is declared in another House that that debt will be divided between the two provinces?—when we see ministers asking for time to reply to each of the questions put to them respecting this scheme? How can the people be acquainted with the local constitutions and the legislatures, when the ministers themselves would appear to know nothing about them? How can the people know in what matter this five million dollars balance of debt, to be laid upon Canada, will be divided, since those who prepared the scheme themselves do not know?
And there is a mass of other important details which ought to be known in order to be able to pronounce upon the merits of the measure, such as the proposed law in relation to education, measures of defence, the Intercolonial Railway, &c. We are told, indeed, for instance, that the Protestants of Lower Canada and the Catholics of Upper Canada will be protected, in so far as relates to their school system, but we have no guarantee of it; and if the scheme of Confederation is adopted before these questions are settled, who can tell us that the Government will have as complaisant a majority to settle those questions as to vote Confederation? There is another part of the scheme which is of the highest importance, and respecting which we are entitled to explanations before voting for it, and that is, the measures to be taken for the defence of the country. It is important that we should know what is to be the nature of the defence which it is proposed to organize and what debt we are to incur for the purpose. Why not let us have the why and the wherefore of the whole business in order that we may come to a sound decision as to the measure. These are details which we ought to have.
Hon. Sir E. P. Taché—You will soon have them.
Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just—It is stated that the federal union provides […]
- (p. 188)
[…] a means of forming a great people, and of raising us to a position in which we may take a place among the nations of the globe. But if into that people, by the Constitution itself, the seeds of discord are introduced, will any one believe that it would not be better to live apart, as at the present time, than to live together with disunion in our midst?
It was also stated that on entering into the Confederation we should have to reduce our import duties in order that our tariff might agree with that of the Lower Provinces. But, as a sequence of that statement, we must enquire upon what the effect of that reduction of duties will fall. For my part, I am of opinion that the deficit which that reduction of our revenue will produce will have to be filled up by the agriculture and industry of Canada. By setting this Confederation going, in order to overcome secondary difficulties, we shall be working out the interests of the English dealers by reducing the import duties one-half. And who will provide the balance which we shall have to find in order to meet our expenditure? The agriculturist and the artisan of this country, who will be made to meet that balance by direct taxation. The Lower Provinces are not agricultural countries, and we are told that we shall barter our flour for the produce of their mines and their forests.
But I am of opinion that it is not by enacting political measures that the course of trade will be changed. Let England abandon Canada at once, and even with Confederation, our products will always go to England, because it is our most advantageous market, and will always continue to be so. So also will it be with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; that is to say, the products of their mines will continue to seek the United States markets, because those provinces now have commercial relations with the United States. Those Provinces will follow the general laws of commercial transactions in going to the United States, exactly as we go to Europe to obtain there the goods which we require, and to dispose of our products in return. But to return to the question of the tariff; I say that we must needs come to the conclusion that the deficit created by the lowering of the tariff will fall on the agriculture and industry of the country, and that an inferior position is ascribed to them in the Confederation. If the import duties are reduced from ten to eleven per cent. our manufactures will be denuded of all their profit, and we shall prevent capitalists from establishing themselves in Canada.
This will be an immediate consequence of Confederation. I have heard it said that the Protestants of Lower Canada ought to be satisfied with their prospects for the future, because we have always acted with liberality towards them. But that is no guarantee for them, for we would not content ourselves with a mere promise to act liberally, if we considered that our interest or our institutions were threatened by a majority differing in race and religion from ourselves; and in any case that is not the way to ensure the peace of the country. If we establish this principle, we should say to the Catholics of Upper Canada that they ought to be satisfied with the lot which we provide for them. When we make a Constitution, we must in the first place settle the political and religious questions which divide the populations for whom the Constitution is devised; because it is a well known fact, that it is religious differences which have caused the greatest troubles and the greatest difficulties which have agitated the people in days gone by. We must learn to prevent them for the future.
When we observe a man like the hon. member (Hon. Sir N. F. Belleau) acknowledge that we do not agree with the Irish, despite the identity of our religious belief, it may easily be foreseen that difficulties will arise with populations differing from us in origin and belief. We are told to vote Confederation first, and that the details will be arranged at a subsequent period; that a measure will then be brought down to regulate the sectional or sectarian difficulties. I am quite willing to admit that such a measure will be presented; but, should not the majority choose to adopt it, we should then be compelled to remain with the seeds of trouble and dissension, which the House will not have succeeded in eradicating, implanted among us. It is also asked what kind of Local Government we shall have; but the Government will make no statement respecting it until Confederation is voted. What kind of a Constitution, and what Governor we shall have? What Governor?
Perhaps that is where the great secret lies, for I believe that for some time past the idea or the hope of being governor has filled the head of more than one political man. What is to be the amount of the Governor’s salary? These are so many […]
- (p. 189)
[…] questions in respect of which we are in complete ignorance, and in relation to which the Government will say nothing whatever. And, with respect to the constitution of the local governments, are we, in case the Upper Canada majority choose to impose their ideas upon us, are we, I say, to submit to them? Such a proceeding would not be fair either to us or to the country. The hon. member (Hon. Sir M. F. Belleau) tells us that we were not sincere in asking for an appeal to the people, because we knew that dissolution would not reach us. Such expressions do not surprise me, proceeding as they do from a man who never had the honor to be the elected representative of the people, and who holds his seat by the favor of the Crown, but I fail to discover by what right he judges us in such a manner. In conclusion, I shall move the following amendment:—
That all the words after “That” in the first line thereof be left out, and that the following words be inserted in lieu thereof, via:—
”The debate on the motion for an Address to Her Majesty on this subject of a union of the British North American Colonies be postponed until such time as the Government shall have made known to this House:
1st. The measures it intends to submit to the Legislature for the purpose of organizing the local governments and legislatures in Upper and Lower Canada.
2nd. The bill on the subject of education which it intends to submit to the present Parliament for the protection of minorities in Upper and Lower Canada.
3rd. The correspondence between the Imperial Government and the Government of Canada, respecting the defence of the province, and what measure the Government intends to submit to us for the same purpose.
4th. In what manner the Government intends to divide between the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada the balance of our present provincial debt, after deducting the $62,500,000 payable by the Federal Government, and which will be the items assigned to each of those provinces.
5th. The report of Mr. Fleming on the survey for the Intercolonial Railway.”
Hon. Mr. Olivier—Before proceeding to a vote, I will ask the hon. member (Hon. Sir N. F. Belleau) who proposed to my honorable friend (Hon. Mr. Letellier) and myself to resign our seats if we did not now choose to vote for Confederation, and submit the question to our electors, whether the debate will be postponed until our elections are over?
Hon. Sir N.F. Belleau—As I am not a member of the Government, it will be understood that I cannot reply to that question. I did not propose to them to resign their seats, but I said that if they were serious in their objections they might resign and submit the question to their constituents by presenting themselves for re-election.
Hon. Mr. Olivier—I understand the object of the hon. member in giving that advice. He would wish to see us retire from the House during the contest; but that is a trap into which we will not fall. Surprise must have been excited that I did not correct all the inaccuracies of the hon. member when he spoke of what I had said; but I preferred not doing so, as I should have had to take up nearly every single word of his in order to correct it, as he distorted and altered the sense of nearly everything that I said. I conceive that a blush must have mantled his forehead as he concluded his speech.
Hon. Mr. Letellier de St. Just’s amendment was then put to the vote, and lost on the following division:—
Contents—Hon. Messieurs Aikins, Archambault, Armstrong, Bennett, Bureau, Chaffers, Cormier, Currie, A. J. Duchesnay, Flint, Leonard, Leslie, Letellier de St. Just, Malhiot, Olivier, Perry, Proulx, Reesor, Seymour and Simpson.—20.
Non-Contents—Hon. Messieurs Alexander, Allan, Armand, Sir N. F. Belleau, Fergusson Blair, Blake, Boulton, Bossé, Bull, Burnham, Campbell, Christie, Crawfard, DeBeaujeu, Dickson, E.H.J. Duchesnay, Dumouchel, Ferrier, Flint, Gingras, Guevermont, Hamilton (Kingston,) Hamilton (Inkerman,) Lacoste, McCrea, McMaster, Macpherson, Matheson, Mills, Panet, Price, Prud’homme, Read, Ross, Shaw, Skead, Sir E. P. Taché, and Wilson.—38
And the Council then adjourned.
 Sanborn’s amendment appears before the Legislative Council on 9 February, pp. 124-125 (original pagination).